Civil and Immigrants’ Rights Groups Work to Win Release of Dreamer Daniela Vargas

March 7, 2017

Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, 213-375-3149, [email protected]
Kirsten Bokenkamp, Southern Poverty Law Center, 334-956-8420, [email protected]

Civil and Immigrants’ Rights Groups Work to Win Release for Dreamer Daniela Vargas and Prevent Deportation

Due Process, First Amendment Rights Violated

LOS ANGELES — Civil and immigrant rights groups have taken legal action to stop the deportation of Daniela Vargas, a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient who was detained by immigration agents immediately after she spoke at a March 1 press conference protesting recent U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in Mississippi. Vargas spoke of her hope that she and other Dreamers could remain in and contribute to this country.

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the law firm of Elmore & Peterson, and the Law Office of William Most filed a habeas petition on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Alexandria Division.

“Detaining Dany just minutes after she spoke publicly about immigrants’ rights appears to be nothing short of ICE retaliating against somebody who dared assert their First Amendment rights,” said Naomi Tsu, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “Dany, an aspiring math teacher and active community member, is not a threat to her community. Her detention only serves to chill free speech and stoke fear throughout immigrant communities.”

The groups contend that the government violated Vargas’s due process and First Amendment rights. The petition seeks Vargas’s immediate release and the chance to challenge the decision to deport her.

The DHS contends, but has presented no evidence, that Vargas waived her rights to contest deportation when she entered the country under the Visa Waiver Program at age 7. She is being detained in LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana.

“Across the country, people of conscience have Dany’s back, and will not stop fighting for her. The courts must take immediate action to release her,” said Greisa Martinez, Advocacy Director of United We Dream.

Vargas, 22, grew up mostly in Mississippi, where she was brought from Argentina in 2001. She benefited from the DACA program from 2012 through 2016. Her work authorization expired last November while she saved for the $495 government filing fee. Her DACA renewal application, submitted in early February, is pending.

“President Trump has tried to use his shock-and-awe approach to scare immigrants back into the margins of society,” said Justin Cox, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Courageous Dreamers like Dany should give us all hope that Trump’s approach will not be successful. Dany spoke out to defend her family and those like her, and we will use every legal tool at our disposal to ensure that her rights are not violated.”

President Trump’s executive actions have created chaos and panic among immigrant communities. Daniela’s situation shows that even DACA recipients are at risk of being detained and deported to countries they don’t recognize as home.

“Daniela is an accomplished young woman who grew up in the United States and has devoted her time and efforts to her studies, her family, and her work,” said Abigail Peterson, Vargas’s immigration attorney. “ICE’s decision to pursue and apprehend Daniela following several news stories in which she spoke out about ICE enforcement evidences a clear abuse of discretion. We hope to soon secure the release of Daniela and remind everyone that ICE’s broadened enforcement authority will not curtail fundamental human rights.”

The petition for writ of habeas corpus is available at

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The National Immigration Law Center is exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families. Our mission is grounded in the belief that every American—and aspiring American—should have the opportunity to fulfill their full potential regardless of where they were born or how much money they have. Using our deep expertise in a wide range of issues that affect low-income immigrants’ lives, we work with communities in courtrooms and legislatures to help advance policies that create a more just and equitable society for everyone.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see